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A kindergarten class in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan, uses dolls with lifelike parts – including genitalia with pubic hair – to teach children about sex. An agency, Imagine China, provided photographs of the dolls to the Huffington Post. The photos were taken in April at Yaolan Kindergarten.
The Shanghaiist, reported that a typical conversation in a Yaolan classroom involves a 4 or 5-year-old student asking if babies fell from the sky only to be corrected by another student who explains: “Daddy’s sperm finds mommy’s egg, and then a baby grows inside mommy’s stomach!”
The graphic dolls used to teach kindergarteners about sex have produced debate and concern among parents. “I am worried that it’s not good for the kids to know sexual knowledge so early,” a parent said, according to The Shanghai Daily. Yaolan has “managed to transcend traditionally retrograde attitudes on sex education, having reportedly taught 4 and 5-year-old children sex-ed since 2008,” The Shanghaiist said.
Discussion on whether or not to teach sexual education to children of various ages is taking place in many places in China. According to CNN, a report in a local Beijing newspaper about a new sex education textbook for elementary school students has spurred much debate on this issue online and beyond.
The Beijing Times, a popular local tabloid, said that the textbook titled “The Steps of Growth,” uses images that are too graphic for young children. “Is it for elementary school students? That’s way too early for them…unacceptable!” a person wrote on Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.
According to CNN, authorities in China said the textbook is only an experiment in some schools but claimed that the teachings of the textbook are important. In a fax statement to CNN, they said, “it’s very important to carry out health education, including sex education, to elementary and middle school students.”
Those in support of teaching sexual education point to China’s abortion rates to prove the need for early education on sex. China has one of the highest abortion rates in the world – a number which is growing. According to a government tally, 9.2 million abortions were performed in 2008, up from 7.6 million in 2007.
But the count only includes hospitals, and state media report the total could be as high as 13 million. The Huffington Post said that many blame the high abortion rate on liberal attitudes toward premarital sex, as well as a lack of sex education.
According to a report by China’s National Working Committee on Children and Women under State Council in 2010, 60% of young Chinese aged 15-24 were open to pre-marriage sex, while 22.4% actually had sexual experience. Among those who got pregnant before marriage, 91% had an abortion, while only 4.4% of unmarried people aged 15-24 had the “correct knowledge” about reproduction.
It also added that only 14.4% of that group understood the risks of HIV, CNN reported. Deciding on the right age to teach children sexual education remains a heated, ongoing debate. “Children still need sex education when they’re little,” opined Li Yinhe, a sociologist who specializes in sexology studies in China.
“They need to know basic knowledge such as gender differences. What matters is that the teachers should also tell children what is right and what is wrong in terms of sex morality, and teach the children to protect themselves from sexual assaults.” China is not the only place where opinion is split on the issue of sexual education.
On August 31, The Vatican referred to New York City’s new sexual education classes as “useless, and even harmful.” The curriculum involves teaching middle school students how to correctly use condoms.